Out Now – 12th July 2013

Monsters Rim

Pacific Rim
My gut reaction to any film about humans making giant robots to fight giant monsters that have emerged from the Pacific is to run in the opposite direction with my arms flailing as I emit a high-pitched scream. HOWEVER… I keep reading reviews which suggest that this film might actually be good but frankly I won’t believe it until I see it and I haven’t even been to see Emma Watson dance in slow motion yet.

Monsters University
Do you remember February 2002? Do you remember being thirteen and adorable? Do you remember seeing Monsters, Inc. in the cinema? Well I do and I bloody loved it. I’ve heard some rumblings that this Pixar films is less for families and more for kids but it’s Pixar so how bad can it be? Cars what?

Blancanieves (West End only until 19th June)
What’s this you ask? Why it’s a black and white Spanish adaptation of Snow White without many of its supernatural elements. Kat saw it back in October and described the film as “bold, beautiful, and brilliant”. You’ve got to admire the alliteration if nothing else.

Citadel (limited release)
“An agoraphobic father teams up with a renegade priest to save his daughter from the clutches of a gang of twisted feral children who committed an act of violence against his family years earlier.” How many renegade priests are there in the world? Do they not stop being priests as soon as they become renegade? Can anyone explain this to me?

The Deep (limited release)
“Based on actual events, a fisherman tries to survive in the freezing ocean after his boat capsizes off the south coast of Iceland.” Essentially an Icelandic sequel to Titanic then? Let’s hope whoever he is with lets him on the raft unlike selfish Rose.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (limited release)
What can I possibly tell you that the title doesn’t already say? I guess that the film was made without the help of Julian Assange or his BFFs.

Trap for Cinderella (limited release)
Considering Cinderella lived in servitude for years and then ran away with the first man who gave her a second glance I’d say that trapping her wouldn’t be too hard. Obviously this film isn’t about that Cinderella but is a British drama about a young girl with amnesia.

Play (limited release)
Young boys steal from other young boys using “advanced role-play and gang rhetoric”. Kids are so sophisticated these days. And sound slightly pretentious too.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (limited release)
“The true story of the “Flying Sikh” – world champion runner and Olympian Milkha Singh — who overcame the massacre of his family, civil war during the India-Pakistan partition, and homelessness to become one of India’s most iconic athletes.” The film is over 3 hours long. I would fall asleep at least twice.

Les Invisibles (limited release)
No jokes here as we have a documentary focussing on elderly homosexuals in France who made the brave decision to live openly as gay in a time when society was a bit more backwards.

The Moo Man (limited release)
A documentary about an independent dairy farmer that claims to be “a laugh-out-loud emotional roller-coaster of a film”. I don’t know about you but I find sheep much funnier.

Cleopatra (limited re-release)
Cleopatra, comin’ atcha! Or rather Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton coming at you in a ridiculously expensive and epicly long tale of triumphs, tragedies, and poor budgeting.

After Lucia – Film Review

After-Lucia

Lucia is a wife and mother. Lucia is dead. Confronted with their great loss father, Roberto (Hernán Mendoza), and daughter, Alejandra (Tessa Ia), move to Mexico City to get a fresh start. Things do not go well for Alejandra after one night’s mistake spirals out of control and she becomes the target of her new classmates bullying. With her mother gone Alejandra is taking a more parental role looking after her father than he is when it comes to looking after her. Alejandra is adrift in a new school, terrorised by her peers, and with no-one to turn to for help.

I first saw After Lucia at last year’s BFI London Film Festival and was so stunned by it I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. How can a short review do justice to this film and how do you recommend a film that had you writhing in your seat with discomfort?

Writer/director Michel Franco shot this film with a very simplistic style that allows the actors and their characters to take precedence. Almost every scene is shot with the camera fixed in place; a single voyeuristic eye that never looks away and never moves. The space this creates for the story to unfold allows for no distraction by way of fancy editing or suave camera moves. The result is a much more believable story, a story that explores the cruelty children will inflict on each other in order to ensure they are not the one being picked on.

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As the bullying escalates to extreme degrees (the picture above being a prelude to some of the most uncomfortable cinema I have seen) I was begging the camera to move, to give me the chance to look away, or for the scene simply to end so that I was no longer bearing witness to these horrors. The horrors are not the sort to have you jumping in your seat or wincing at the sight of a bloody wound. These are the horrors of real life, the horrors that could actually come true.

With a film focussing on the loss of a parent and extreme bullying Franco was never going to make a film that is enjoyable to watch. The acts we see committed are brutal and unsettling and so quite rightly the film is too. To make it all the more difficult for the viewer the fact that we are a static eye in the corners of the story watching it all unfold makes us somehow complicit in what is happening. The same way you would be if you were a character at that school, watching the bullying but not stepping in to help.

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Almost painful to watch After Lucia is a masterclass in pulling the audience into the story and not letting them go until it has come to its shattering conclusion. It has been 9 months and I still feel a little unsettled. A beautifully tragic tale that won’t let you look away, no matter how badly you might want to.

After Lucia has no UK release date yet but is playing at the MexFest in London this weekend. For tickets and more information visit the MexFest website.

The Da Vinci Code – Audrey Tautou Retrospective #2

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The Da Vinci Code was Audrey Tautou’s first Hollywood film, and she couldn’t have picked any better, really… until we actually saw the dratted thing. Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, a faithful adaption of an acclaimed book, upset religious folk worldwide and Tautou herself; on the face of it The Da Vinci Code should have been amazing, but it seems that when you combine all of those great things you get a film that is a mind-numbing snore-fest.

The film follows symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) as they talk their way through Europe and fool a host of goodies/baddies played by the likes of Ian McKellan, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno and a white-faced Paul Bettany who are all trying to uncover (or keep covered up!) the secret of the Holy Grail.

The largest pitfall with a film like The Da Vinci Code is that not only is there not a huge call for the genre (conspiracy-adventure?) but that the people that do want to watch it want something that won’t put them in a boredom coma. 146 minutes of revelation-revealing via talking just isn’t as fun as running and shouting and chasing. I’m not one to generally advocate dumbing down but National Treasure has 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and The Da Vinci Code only has 64%. Imagine that percentage if there’d been a little more action helping its stars and highbrow plot.

DaVinciCode

Obviously Hanks and Tautou are solid as always but their chemistry with one and other is destroyed by the film’s emotional emptiness and bland, shadow-filled styling. Not helping the situation is the film’s adherence to taking itself completely seriously. Like, more seriously than The Passion of the Christ. Not only does that suck all of the fun out of the story but it makes the lighter moments dumb and super dramatic moments laughable.

More than anything The Da Vinci Code feels like a missed opportunity. Maybe I’ll give the 174 minute extended cut a whirl just to make sure that it wasn’t a lack of runtime that broke the film. Regardless, simply because from the outlook The Da Vinci Code seemed to have made all of the right choices I shan’t let it besmirch the good names of Hanks, Tautou or Howard in my mind and neither should you. We’ll just have to live with the fact that when a book is adapted as faithfully as everyone always wants it to be it kind of sucks.

“Happy Birthday!” to Mark Kermode… and “Hello!” to Jason Isaacs

Mark-Kermode

Because my original Mark Kermode animation just wasn’t tacky enough…

On Saturday night the Barbican were nice enough to invite me (under duress) to see Mark Kermode celebrate his 50th Birthday by presenting music from his favourite films performed live by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. As Kermode explained it music used to be the only way you could take a film home with you after seeing it in the cinema. In the time before Blu-rays, HD-DVDs, DVDs, betamax, and VHS if you wanted to relive the excitement away from the silver screen you were limited to buying a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl and listening to it on repeat at home.

In the first half we were treated to (amongst others) the haunting soundtracks to both The Exorcist and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. These two eerie and atmospheric pieces succeeded in sending a shiver down my spine – a real feat on such an unbearably hot day. The orchestra also performed the Mary Poppins Overture which provided a shiver of a much nicer variety as the tune moved through all the songs from one of four films I watched on repeat as a child. Kermode admitted to having been reduced to tears while talking about his love for Mary Poppins on a Channel 4 clip show (footage of which I have failed to find) and I have to admit that as the music washed over me a part of my cold dead heart did start to melt.

After a cake-filled interval (maybe that was just us) Mark was joined on-stage by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy to you and me) who talked about some of the films he had made, films he loved, and generally gushed about how wonderful everyone involved with Harry Potter was. Isaacs was charming, funny, and… erm… charming. Any loyal reader of Mild Concern will be aware of my love for the books and films involving that boy wizard and so while it was wonderful to hear music from Taxi Driver performed in the second half alongside The Godfather (Isaacs favourite film) it was the finale that really made the evening. Starting with a few high-pitched notes we were given a live rendition of Hedwig’s Theme, a piece of music as synonymous with the Potter films as Daniel Radcliffe’s beaming face. The look on the face of my companion when they announced what we were about to hear (eyes and mouth both as wide as they could go) said it all, there was something a little magical about hearing such familiar music played live and with such skill.

Simon Mayo also popped in to discuss his favourite film which happens to be Amadeus which surprisingly enough features rather a lot of Mozart. Anyone who listens to Mayo and Kermode’s radio show can predict the sort of bickering that ensued.

As a fan of both Mark Kermode and film music in general this was a perfect night out for me and I was a little sad to see a fair few empty seats across the room. This micro tour has two more stops, tonight and tomorrow, and I highly recommend you go along. Each show is unique and so this really is a once in a lifetime experience.

The remaining performances are at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with David Arnold and Paddy Considine, and Symphony Hall in Birmingham with Jeremy Irons. For further information go to www.Kermodefilmmusic.co.uk

Out Now – 5th July 2013

Now You See Me
You know what I see? I see a big intrusive ad at the top of IMDb. Therefore by Mild Concern rules I cannot summarise the film here. Hey, I don’t make the rules! (I do, I am king!)

The Internship
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite to star in a comedy that seems to be mostly trying to promote Google. The pair start at Google as interns as they compete with young geeks for permanent employment. Google were so heavily involved in the film’s production they helped design sets and contributed dialogue so don’t be alarmed if your Android phone starts suggesting local screenings to you.

The Bling Ring (limited release)
Gifted as Sofia Coppola is at directing, and fascinating as this tale of entitlement and celebrity obsession may be, all the internet seems to care about is a brief moment in the trailer when Emma Watson sticks her tongue out while dancing. Is the idea of Hermione being even remotely sexual really that fascinating? I think we all know what my answer to that question would be. Hover your mouse over the image above and test yourself. Sexy dancing aside I am very excited for this film.

A Field in England (limited cinema release/wide everywhere else release)
Ben Wheatley is the resident king of violent films with fantastic dialogue. This latest film is released on all formats at once today so you can either go to the cinema or tune in to Film4 and watch from the comfort of your own home. At 10:45pm I know I plan on tuning in.

Confine (limited release)
Ah Confine, what a dilemma you gave me. Much as I enjoyed my chat with writer/director Tobias Tobbell the film itself did not review so well.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (limited release)
If you want to watch an important documentary about freedom of speech and say the word “pussy” to a member of cinema staff without being ejected from the building then you are in luck.

Paris-Manhattan (limited release)
French romantic comedy about a Woody Allen-obsessed pharmacist which includes a cameo from Woody Allen himself. Expect me to cover this in my Woody Allen retrospective in the late 2080s.

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (limited re-release)
The BFI re-releases Werner Herzog’s 1974 drama about the true story of a man who appeared in Nuremberg in 1828 unable to speak or walk.

Out in the Dark (limited release)
Romantic drama revolving around “two men on opposite sites of the Mid-East conflict: Palestinian student Nimer and Roy, an Israeli lawyer”. It’s like a gay Arabic Romeo and Juliet.

The Wall (limited release)
German(?) drama in which a woman and her dog are cut off from civilization by a large invisible wall. Unfortunately this means that she won’t be able to watch the new TV series Under the Dome.

Tropicália (limited release)
Are you aware of the Brazilian artistic movement known as tropicália? You are? Then you don’t need to watch this documentary exploring the Brazilian artistic movement known as tropicália. I have to admit I am completely ignorant when it comes to the Brazilian artistic movement known as tropicália.

Paradise: Faith (limited release)
The second in the Paradise trilogy, that is apparently chugging along whether we like it or not, focuses on… faith. This ain’t rocket science people.

Bula Quo! (limited release)
Status Quo’s Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt star as themselves in a comedy action adventure set in Fiji. Imagine, in forty years we might be watching Arctic Monkeys starring in a Guatemalan caper.

Chasing Mavericks (limited release)
A drama about surfing starring Gerard Butler. Try not to get too excited.

Behind the scenes note: Originally I photoshopped colourful balaclavas onto the cast of The Bling Ring for this post but decided not to use it as it looked like it had been made by a psychopath with violent intentions and poor image editing skills. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

No/Gloss Film Festival

No Gloss Film Festival

It seems we are into Film Festival season as this week* our friends (we’ve exchanged emails and everything!) at the No/Gloss Film Festival in Leeds have announced the date and venue for their second celebration of independent filmmaking. This year’s festival will take place on the 19th and 20th of October and will be held in the oh so trendy looking Canada Mills.

What makes No/Gloss Film Festival a little bit exciting is their ethos of being a no frills film festival. Tickets to the festival are affordable (and available to buy online), the submission process is free for filmmakers, and the selection process aims to remove any bias towards famous personalities. While No/Gloss is running I will be at the all-frills BFI London Film Festival at which I have seen many a film that seemed to have been chosen for its cast rather than its quality. As I will be busy swanning around in Londontown we will (hopefully) be sending along our Northern correspondent to see what’s going on up there.

The festival promises:

Over 30 hours of DIY, independent films from the UK and world over, an amazing outdoor food tent, live art and spectacular visuals on display, free tortilla chips and salsa provided on ONE of the days courtesy of Bar Burrito, 5min film workshops, meet your favorite film-makers, and of course the after party – we promise it will be an unforgettable weekend!

Honestly I think I’d go anywhere with an outdoor food tent.

*OK, seven days ago. I got distracted.

London MexFest Screening Competiton

The Girl - Mex Fest

From 11th to 14th July London will be celebrating the best films Mexico has to offer with the 2013 London MexFest. Over the four days a variety of feature, documentary, and short films will be screened at the Rich Mix, BFI Southbank, and Canary Wharf where Wahaca will be holding outdoor screenings.

A full line-up of films can be found on the London MexFest website and might I be so bold as to recommend Michel Franco’s After Lucia which is an astonishing film , and one which I will be reviewing next week.

To celebrate the return of the festival to our capital we are giving away two tickets to the opening night screening of The Girl by David Riker. The Girl stars Abbie Cornish as a young American mother who loses her son to social services and crosses paths with a young girl from Mexico. If you live in the UK, are at least 18 years old, can get yourself to the Rich Mix in Shoreditch, London on Thursday 11th July 2013 at 7:30pm, and fancy a chance to win the tickets then enter your details below.

Competition closes on 9th July 2013 at 5pm at which point a winner will be selected at random.

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Venus Beauty Institute – Audrey Tautou Retrospective #1

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There aren’t many places better to start when reviewing a body of work than at the beginning, so here we are with Venus Beauty Institute Vénus Beauté (Institute)’, Audrey Tautou’s first feature film and winner of four César awards (including ‘Most Promising Actress’ for Tautou). Focusing on the loneliness of Parisian beautician Angèle (Nathalie Baye) Venus explores the fling life of a 40 year-old woman who refuses to believe in love.

Interestingly, considering the extent of man-talk that does go down, Venus Beauty does pass the Bechdel Test, but just barely, thanks to its Coronation Street-levels of salon babble that fill up the film’s non-plot essential scenes. You don’t, however, find yourself wanting to put a bullet in your head though because the quiet sadness of Angèle is far more appealing than the drama that occurs in Audrey’s hair salon.

The French Vera Farmiga, Nathalie Baye has just the right amount of modest beauty to casually approach another man every other night yet not come off as a bit of a tart. Rather, her monotonous life of making others beautiful whist she steadily grows older and more alone is really quite affecting and her life outside of work fulfils her desperate need for necessary change.

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Tonie Marshall’s direction is extremely reserved, telling her story with ordinary set-up, angles and colour in order to make Angèle’s tale all the more dull (in a good way). As we occasionally pry into the more exciting lives of her co-workers, Sam (Mathilde Seigner), the quintessence of 90’s punk rocker, and the wide-eyed Marie (Audrey Tautou), we get insight into varying stages of happiness, with Tautou’s Marie the only character truly happy in this world as she falls for a widowed male client and gives us one of the raciest Disturbingly Old Man With Young Woman sex scenes ever. Whilst Tautou’s part is small it’s not hard to see why her adolescent, sheepish charm would go on to put her in the spotlight for years to come.

Venus Beauty, as the title may hint at, has a lot to say about love and attraction, and what draws us in is how ugly it can be. Not ugly in the sense of a Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler rom-com where it’s all melodrama and tears, but ugly in the sense of genuine unhappiness and a relatable conventionality.

Thanks to the film’s salon setting there are a whole  host of side characters that reappear between the heavier plot beats to either make our eyes pop (the patron who likes to come naked, bar a coat) or make us chuckle (the actress who turns up for treatment in a myriad of funny costumes). Venus Beauty is definitely for the sad-hearted who have a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. If you like French films that focus on the depressing love life of a mid-40s woman then this is certainly the film for you.